Our “Wonderful” AA Flight to Nowhere and DFW’s New D Gates

My sister graduated college back in May (both masters and undergrad) and wanted to go on a road trip out in the Pacific Northwest for her graduation trip. It seemed like a good time to make a trip because travel hadn’t totally restarted yet and flights were still fairly empty on weekdays.

Owing to my not having traveled all of 2020 and most of 2021, I had stockpiled a considerable number of membership rewards points. Most AA flights out of DFW to Seattle had award availability in first class wide open so I went ahead and booked it for 22k Avios each. Normally I would be a bit stingy about paying for domestic first class, but given the way the pandemic had played out, I didn’t know when I would get another chance to travel again. British also has a flexible cancellation policy where you only lose the taxes (~$5/person) if you cancel outside of the 24 hour window.

Fast forward to our departure date, despite hearing horror stories about security wait times and AA flight delays, we were on board the aircraft and pushed back from the gate at exactly 8:20, 10 minutes before departure time.I was seated in 1A, which is nothing special other than you don’t have the seat in front to store your personal bag under.  Oh yeah, you have got to love the new AA Oasis interiors for their extremely uncomfortable, wooden board like seats. I would take the old first class seats any day over these.

After an unusually long takeoff roll, we climbed to 25,000 feet at which point I decided to take my laptop out and start working. An hour or so passed by before we hit some rough weather and the aircraft made an abrupt descent to below the cruising altitude. Figuring that it was weather related, I didn’t bother checking the map for our progress.

About a few minutes into the descent, the captain came on to make the most inaudible announcement known to man. All anyone could make out was return to Dallas and “rough and heavy landing.” At this point, some passengers started frantically looking from side to side and almost expecting the plane to go down at that very moment. The FA made a PA saying we were returning to Dallas as a “precautionary measure” and that everything was going to be fine. Though it was reassuring for some, others just kept looking out the window. I think what bothered me the most was the fact that neither the captain nor the FA gave us a single update after that.

I didn’t feel like we were in danger at any point, but it would’ve been nice to have some clarification. The weather got quite choppy on approach  and the landing was quite rough due to the fuel we were carrying I presume. I’m not quite sure what protocol is on dumping fuel over populated areas or whether that happens on occasions like this. 

There you have it, an hour worth of flying to come all the way back to Dallas. We weren’t told whether we would get a new aircraft or just get this one fixed but we were asked to make our way to gate D4. Having not read the news as of late, I hadn’t yet heard that DFW had opened its 5 gate Terminal D expansion. Turns out we were one of the “pilot” customers to use the new terminal area before its official launch the following week. I have to say it looks even better than the already existing Terminal D.

 

I’m guessing it was the high ceilings which made it seem more spacious than other areas. I managed to snag some pictures of it and a chair by the window just before a the whole throng of people showed up. I guess they waited by the gate to hear about the new departure time and location. TIP: Always check the app, it seems to know better than the gate agents a lot of times. 

Anyway I couldn’t complain about the extra time too much, although it did destroy our lunch plans in Seattle. We certainly enjoyed the cushy red lounge chairs by the window until our new departure time which was about 45 minutes later. We were in luck, the crew hadn’t timed out!

Boarding the second time around was faster than the previous attempt because many passengers had elected to stay back in Dallas due to their mileage runs not being possible any longer. And sooner than I thought, I was again seated in 1A headed for Seattle. I suspected that this must have been an alternate aircraft because the paint job looked fresher from what I could tell and the seat certainly looked like it had seen less wear and tear.

Oddly enough I saw two Emirates 777s parked at remote parking bays. Can anyone explain why that’s the case? I’ve seen it a few times as of late and DFW only has 1 daily departure to Dubai at the most.

Everything went as per norm on our delayed flight to Seattle. There were hardly any bumps on this flight as it seemed that the storms had passed by DFW during our wait. Service on board our flight was what I would call “just fine.” There was nothing outstanding about the offerings and of course there was no meal served on board. I certainly hate that AA completely got rid of the blankets and pillows in First Class, but that’s been a while now I suppose.

No complaints from me with masks being on longer. It would certainly prevent people from taking too much liberty in keeping their masks off during flight as they sip and munch for 3 hours. The pandemic isn’t over folks.

Anyway on our final approach into Seattle we were greeted with outstanding views of Mount Rainier so my nose and mask were glued to the window.

 

 

I felt like seeing the mountain used to be a rarity when I was kid as Seattle was always cloudy and rainy, but lately I’ve seen the mountain 10/10 times. Another sign of climate change? Seattle itself looked sunny and relatively clear as we landed. We had great views of the port of Tacoma as well as the entire Puget Sound.

 

Bottom Line: 

AA did a horrible job in communicating what had actually happened with the mechanical failure on our flight. The captain never made it back on the mic to talk to us about the situation despite no one (not even the FAs) being able to decipher what he had said earlier. But in the end, I have to say departing for Seattle 2.5 hours late isn’t terrible considering the horror stories I’ve heard about American and its maintenance problems as of late. I can see why people would be agitated though given that many were connecting from somewhere on an early morning flight through DFW. American doesn’t really offer much food on board and there was only one vendor (a cake cafe) open in the immediate terminal area. I would definitely rank American below Delta once again in terms of comfort and quality of service (the oasis interiors suck). In my experience United hasn’t really done a whole lot better, correct me if I am wrong.

Stay tuned for a full trip report on my trip to the Pacific Northwest……

 

Trip Report Index

American First Class DFW-SEA (737-800)

One Comment

  1. Corbett Kroehler

    Parked aircraft often point to maintenance and crew rotation. Long-haul flights which tax (or nearly tax) the aircraft’s range (such as western U.S. to Dubai) make it necessary to operate at least 3 birds for each direction in order to offer daily service or 5x and 6x a week.

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